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Difficulty II-III+
Length Miles
Gauge Russell Fork Gorge
Flow Range 400 - 1500 CFS
Flow Rate as of: 32 minutes ago 210.1 [CFS]
Next Release
Reach Info Last Updated 08/17/2009 6:07 pm

River Description

Dan Grimes in bottom hole of 20 Stiches Rapid Oct.2001

The Russell Fork from Bartlick Bridge to Garden Hole makes for a nice intermediate whitewater paddle for those not comfortable running the more challenging Russell Fork Gorge section. There are several nice rapids in the Bartlick to Garden Hole reach which is sometimes run in conjunction with stretch from the Flannagan Dam on the Pound River tributary during the annual fall whitewater releases every weekend in October.

Check out the for a wealth of info & photos.

Shuttle Directions

Garden Hole Takeout:
Driving east from the Breaks Interstate Park on VA80 look for the gravel Garden Hole Rd on your right. This is a steep in spots road (2-wheel drive is ok but if it's raining the mud might make it interesting for some) that is often used as a putin for the RF Gorge section.

Bartlick Putin:
Following VA80 east towards Haysi,VA look for VA611 on the right about 5-6miles past the Breaks Park. follow VA611 till it crosses the Russell Fork at the Bartlick Bridge.

Haysi Putin:

Stay on VA80 into Haysi. Do not turn off the road (VA80 veers away in downtown) and follow the river through downtown. The road continues on river right past downtown, parking is about a half mile from downtown on the left side of the road across from an appliance store.

Rapid Descriptions


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Richard Hopley
5 years ago

Oct. 18, 2014. The Haysi gauge read 401 CFS. We put on behind the pharmacy in Haysi and had plenty of water down to the confluence with the Pound. This gave us about 2 1/4 more river miles than putting on at Flannagan Dam. We missed the surf spot where the Pound takes that sharp left turn, but we gained two blind ledges and several Class II or II+ rapids, so it was a much more full river day that putting on at the dam, with a far, far shorter shuttle. Below the Pound we had 1200 CFS and all the rapids were a little washed out, a little less technical, and a little less interesting than at the ~800 CFS release with nothing coming in from natural flow. -Oci-One Kanubi

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Andrea Jones
13 years ago

In October, 2006, the RF in Haysi was running around 700-800 cfs, which put about 1200 cfs into the Gorge with the output from the Pound river (they reduced the normal flow). We putin outside of Haysi, and had a very nice run (class II-III with two 3-4+ ft ledges back-to-back that were a little bony). We took out at Garden Hole after running the usual section from Bartlick bridge on down. It made for a trip of about 8 miles or so that was very enjoyable and very much preferable to the Pound river.

Release Schedule

More Information

We have had releases on this reach but don't show any currently. This information is gathered by the public. If you know about releases then contact us about them. If you would volunteer to enter the releases, then reach out to us.

Gage Descriptions

The gauge listed for this reach is using the virtual combination gauge that combines the natural flow reported at the "Russell Fork at Haysi, VA" and any releases from the "Pound River below Flannagan Dam near Haysi, VA" USGS gauges. This section may be run year round when there is sufficient rainfall to fill the free flowing Russell Fork or when the Flannagan Dam on the Pound River is releasing. Scheduled releases by are every weekend during the month of October. Check with the Army Corps of Engineers whitewater release pages. Minimum kayak/canoe level is around 400cfs, minimum 600 for small rafts. The run exceeds class IV above 1500cfs and has been run up to 10000cfs.

Directions Description

We have no additional detail on this route. Use the map below to calculate how to arrive to the main town from your zipcode.

Date Flow Result Factor  
2018-10-06 Medium Injury Other Read More



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Russell Fork Release Study Open For Comment (VA/KY)

Kevin Colburn

The Army Corps of Engineers has shared their Environmental Assessment that considered four potential changes to the fall whitewater release program aimed at enhancing whitewater paddling opportunities. The Corps is planning on providing two additional Friday releases this fall as a result of the analysis. The EA is refreshingly succinct, and we encourage paddlers to give it a read and submit a comment if you are inspired to do so. 

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Russell Fork Releases Expanded (KY/VA)

Kevin Colburn

The fall release schedule for the Russell Fork River was recently announced, and it includes two new Friday releases that will offer 3-day weekends of releases. While announced without explanation, the added released are presumably a result of a public process convened by the Army Corp of Engineers last spring to explore the possibility of an expanded release schedule. American Whitewater and many regional paddlers advocated for additional recreational releases throughout the public process. We conducted and shared a survey that indicated significant support for Friday releases. The new releases are listed as "tentative and subject to change," and hopefully if they go well additional releases will be scheduled in future years. Enjoy these new paddling opportunities!

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AW Russell Fork Survey Results Shared (KY/VA)

Kevin Colburn

Last fall a diverse range of agencies and organizations expressed interest in enhancing the dam releases on the Russell Fork River, located on the border of Kentucky and Virginia. American Whitewater worked with local partners to craft a survey to inform the decision-making process and support releases that maximize benefits for paddlers and local businesses. We are pleased to share the full results of the survey, which were appreciated by the river managers. 

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Take Russell Fork Survey on Additional Releases (VA/KY)

Kevin Colburn

This year, the Army Corps of Engineers has added Russell Fork releases on the first two weekends of November as a pilot program, in addition to the standard four October weekends. Additional changes to the release program are under consideration. American Whitewater has worked with local partners to craft a survey to inform the decision-making process and support releases that maximize benefits for paddlers and local businesses. Click through to take the survey. 

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Russell Fork Study Needs Congressional Support

Kevin Colburn

A group of regional stakeholders are advocating for a new study of the releases on the Russell Fork River, located on the Virginia-Kentucky border.  To support the studyand an improved flow regime, the group is advocating for a Congressional appropriation to fund the Army Corp of Engineers to conduct the study.  Paddlers' involvement could help bring a fresh look and better flows to the Russell Fork.



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Attention Virginia Boaters!

Jason Robertson

During the high waters of Spring 2003, there has been a noticeable increase in reported confrontations between boaters and property owners in Virginia. Please remember to be respectful and courteous to property owners; do not trespass; and avoid confrontation in order to preserve access in the future.

Steve Ruth


Revision #Revision DateAuthorComment
1191805 10/12/01 Steve Ruth n/a
1195821 08/17/09 Steve Ruth